Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a problem with the way a baby's hip joint forms before, during, or after birth — causing an unstable hip. In severe cases, the hip joint can dislocate or cause trouble walking.
Mild cases of DDH usually get better on their own as a baby grows. More severe cases may need treatment with a brace or surgery to reposition the hip and allow for proper healing.
At your baby's checkups, the doctor will examine the hips to look for DDH. Identifying and treating the problem early will help a child avoid muscle, joint, and skeletal problems down the road.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The "ball" is the rounded top of the thighbone (the femoral head); the "socket" is a cup-shaped bone that the ball fits into (the acetabulum).
When a child has a mild case of DDH, the ball moves back and forth slightly in the socket, causing an unstable hip. In more serious cases, the ball becomes dislocated and moves completely out of the socket. In the most severe cases, the ball may not even reach the socket where it should be held in place.
Hip dislocations are fairly uncommon, affecting just 1 in 1,000 newborns. However, some degree of hip instability happens in as many as 1 in 3 newborns. Girls are more likely than boys to have hip dislocations.
The causes of DDH aren't completely understood, but experts think that many things are involved. A baby can be at risk for DDH due to:
DDH usually affects only one side of the body, most often the left. Babies usually don't feel any pain and don't show any obvious symptoms. To diagnose it, doctors look for these signs:
A doctor can determine whether a hip is dislocated or likely to become dislocated by gently pushing and pulling on the child's thighbones to see if they are loose in their sockets. In one commonly used diagnostic test, a child lies on a flat surface and his or her thighs are spread out to check the hips' range of motion.
A second test brings the knees together and attempts to push the femoral head out of the socket. It is during these tests that the doctor will hear a "click," which may indicate a dislocation. These maneuvers are done at routine checkups until babies are walking normally.
Sometimes a doctor will recommend an X-ray or ultrasound to get a better view of a dislocated hip. X-rays (which only take pictures of bones) are done with older kids, while ultrasounds (which take pictures of bones and soft tissues) are better for babies younger than 3 months old because their hip tissue has not yet hardened into bone.
Treatment for DDH depends on the child's age and the severity of the condition. Mild cases may correct themselves in the first few weeks of life. In many cases, however, the pediatrician will refer the child to see a bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon) for treatment.
If baby has an unstable hip that does not get better, a brace called a Pavlik harness will be used to hold the hip in position. This device keeps the femoral head in its socket by holding the knee up toward the child's head. A shoulder harness attaches to foot stirrups to keep the leg elevated. The goal is to keep the femoral head in the hip socket. As a baby grows, this helps the hip joint to develop normally. Treatment with the Pavlik harness lasts about 6 to 12 weeks, and continues until the hip is stable and ultrasound exams are normal.
Pavlik harnesses do not work in children over 6 months old. Kids who are older and continue to have DDH may need one of two types of surgery:
After reaching age 2 or 3, a child might need surgery on the pelvis to deepen the hip socket (if it's too shallow) or to shorten the thighbone or realign it. After surgery, kids need to wear a hip spica cast (a type of body cast that keeps the hips from moving). The cast usually is needed for several months, depending on the child's condition.
When DDH is recognized early and treated appropriately, most children develop normally and have no related problems.
DDH does not cause pain initially, but it may cause problems down the line, so it's important to treat it. Kids with untreated DDH end up having legs of uneven length in adulthood, and this can cause a limp or waddling gait, back and hip pain, and overall decreased agility.
|American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases This Web site provides the latest information about the treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases.|
|Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE) Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) refers to a shift at the upper part of the thighbone, or femur, that results in a weakened hip joint. Fortunately, when caught early, most cases of SCFE can be treated successfully.|
|In-toeing & Out-toeing in Toddlers What is in-toeing and how will it affect your child? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Should I Worry About the Way My Son Walks? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|A to Z: Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease Learn about this rare hip disorder, which is most common in boys.|
|X-Ray Exam: Hip A hip X-ray can help find the cause of symptoms such as limping, pain, tenderness, swelling, or deformity in the hip area. It can detect broken bones or a dislocated joint.|
|A to Z: Dislocation, Hip A dislocation is when the bones in a joint slip out of their normal position. A hip dislocation is an injury that occurs when the ball of the thighbone moves out of the socket of the hipbone.|
|When Your Baby Is Born With a Health Problem If you're expecting a baby, it's important to understand that certain health problems and complications can't be prevented, no matter how smoothly the pregnancy goes.|
|Common Childhood Orthopedic Conditions Flatfeet, toe walking, pigeon toes, bowlegs, and knock-knees. Lots of kids have these common orthopedic conditions, but are they medical problems that can and should be corrected?|
|Bones, Muscles, and Joints Without bones, muscles, and joints, we couldn't stand, walk, run, or even sit. The musculoskeletal system supports our bodies, protects our organs from injury, and enables movement.|
|Ultrasound: Infant Hip Doctors order a hip ultrasound when they suspect a problem called developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH).|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.